The illegal exploitation of the world's forests is costing billions of dollars every year in lost revenue and causing enormous environmental and social damage, a senior United Nations official said today as he urged an international meeting of government ministers to strengthen their legislation to protect forests.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, told the opening of the high-level segment of the UN Forum on Forests, meeting this month at UN Headquarters in New York, that "weak law enforcement often leads to illegal activities in the forest sector."
He said estimates showed that about $10 billion of revenue per year is lost just on public forests because of illegal logging and other activities.
"This is money that would otherwise be available for public spending – for example, to alleviate poverty, housing, education and health care," Mr. Sundaram said in an address on behalf of José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
More than 300 government officials, including some 50 ministers responsible for forests, are holding roundtables and policy dialogues over the next two days to discuss how to enhance forest protection.
Mr. Sundaram stressed to the group that a healthy environment where natural resources are sustainable is essential if the world is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the set of eight targets for reducing or eliminating global ills by 2015.